Local residents - many of them business owners - crowded into the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce building Wednesday to learn more about the $40 million Madison Consolidated Schools' building referendum coming before voters later this year.

MCS Superintendent Ginger Studebaker-Bolinger told the group that without a referendum the community will be faced with some crumbling buildings.

The discussion came during the Chamber's "Work it Wednesday," networking lunch.

The referendum will appear on the May 6 ballot. It calls for closing E.O. Muncie Elementary School, and adding classrooms and renovating the main office, media center and cafeteria at Anderson Elementary School. Muncie students would be moved to Anderson.

Work at Madison Consolidated High School would include construction of a gymnasium, converting the old gym into a performing arts center for music and theater space, renovating the school's "A" wing, adding classroom wings that would include a technology center, a centralized media center, new entryways, a renovated main office area and a main entrance facing Clifty Drive.

Bolinger told the group that E.O. Muncie and MCHS are in dire shape.

"If we don't get the referendum, we're going to have some crumbling buildings," she said.

The superintendent also discussed the issuance of bonds to finance the work.

While the gross tax impact will be roughly 40 cents per $100 spent, the debt repayment won't be added to property taxes until 2017, when existing debt is paid off.

The average increase to property taxes, Bolinger said, would be $4.73 a month.

Bill Hensler, who served on the building project task force that recommended the referendum to the school board, told the group that while it sounds good to pay off debt, a certain amount is needed for building upkeep.

"We need to maintain a certain amount of debt to maintain our buildings," he said.

Betty Maddox of Neace Lukens Insurance, said she attended the lunch to learn about the referendum.

"I wanted to know why they chose Anderson. I wanted to know what the tax increases would be, and I wanted to know about the time frame," Maddox said.

The presentation, she said, convinced her to support the referendum.

"It seems like this is the best solution going forward," she said.

Chamber Executive Director Trevor Crafton said there will be similar events for people wanting to discuss the referendum on March 18 at 8 a.m. and April 24 at 4 p.m. at the Chamber of Commerce building.